Ok, so as much as I enjoy video games, there are certain aspects I despise. Gamers and developers alike are a varied bunch, and provide plenty of fodder for gaming irritation. And thus, my video game rants!
The Boomerang PS3 Controller Rant: Remember when Sony unveiled this monstrosity prior to the PS3 launch? I actually remember thinking the picture was a hoax created in Photoshop by some Xbox 360 fan with too much time on his hands. It wasn't. There was such a backlash within the Playstation community that Sony literally changed the PS3 controller design to what we use today. I'd love to get my hands on a prototype of the preliminary controller. Three ingredients: plastic, boomerang, and idiocy.
The Gamespot/Eidos Conflict of Interest Rant: Remember back in 2007 when Jeff Gerstmann was promptly terminated from his position at Gamespot as Editorial Director immediately following his deservedly negative review of the insidiously bad Kane and Lynch: Dead Men game from Eidos? One can’t help but read into the situation and come to the conclusion that this was corporate kowtowing at its best.
Eidos had become on of Gamespot’s largest advertisers, going as far as paying to change the background of Gamespot’s entire site to a giant Kane and Lynch montage. Well, on November 13th, when Jeff Gerstmann gave the game a review score of 6.0, Eidos (the publisher) wasn’t pleased. Gerstmann was fired just 15 days later. If you believe that was a coincidence, well, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Oh, and after Jeff’s departure, fellow editors Ryan Davis, Brad Shoemaker, Alex Navarro, and Vinny Caravella all left Gamespot as they believed they could no longer work for an organization that seemed to have completely given in to an advertiser.
Shockingly (full sarcasm intended), Gamespot and CNET (the parent company) have both stated that the termination was unrelated to the Kane and Lynch review. But, if you’re a reviewer at Gamespot trying to put food on the table, how could you possibly write a truly unbiased review after this suspicious fiasco?
09/02/10 Update: The sequel to Kane and Lynch, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days, was released recently, and Eidos once again paid to advertise everywhere on the Gamespot website (see the screenshot to the left). The game review score once again came in quite low at an atrocious 6.5, thus redeeming Gamespot's credibility to a certain extent.
The Multiplayer "Lag" Rant: If I had a nickel for every time I've heard a frustrated online gamer blame lag for getting ghetto stomped, I'd be living in Barbados with a yacht. While not as much of an issue for gamers nowadays, from the mid-90's to the mid-2000's, bandwidth limitations and poor connection speeds would occasionally result in a brief screen slowdown during multiplayer video games, making your character more vulnerable to players who had faster connections.
Yes, we all know lag was annoying in games, but certain players would use it as a catch-all excuse—and only after getting fragged (why wasn't it an issue before someone annihilated you?). This weak excuse was really prolific on the original Xbox Live (and very notably in Unreal Championship). My ears bled a little each time I heard it.
Online Host Excuse Rant: Similar to the above "lag" rant, and falling within the same time period, the online host excuse was incredibly annoying, even when it was justified. This occurred when the host had an unfair advantage in sync and speed during the match (because the game was being hosted on his/her console, not on the XBL servers, and thus there was no lag for him/her, but there could be lag for virtually everyone else). The funny thing is, the host excuse was actually pretty legit--the host almost always had an unfair advantage, and it usually showed. In Unreal Championship for the Xbox, you could always tell who the host was because he/she was lethal with the lightning gun. It was annoying mainly because it was true, and it posed a problem, especially in clan matches. The solution: using a dedicated server.
High-maintenance Gamer Rant: Why is it that so many gamers complain when popular sequels do not include amazing new gameplay? For instance, Doom 3 received a considerable amount of flak because it’s core gameplay elements had not evolved much. Hey genius--this is DOOM we’re talking about! What did you expect? To be able to run up and down walls? Give me a break!
Weak Game Bosses Rant: Bioshock (Xbox 360): Andrew Ryan would have made a remarkable Glass Joe replacement for Mike Tyson’s Punchout. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for a boss who’s next to impossible to beat (see below rant), but there is a middle ground people. After the mind-bending voyage that was Bioshock, Andrew Ryan made for an innocuous, teddy bear finale. I’m pretty certain if I dropped my controller on the ground, then picked it back up, Andrew Ryan would somehow be down to 50% power. Maybe it’s because Andrew Ryan is a type of anagram for female author Ayn Rand. Give me a break!
Impossible Game Bosses Rant: Ok, so in the above rant I describ how I deplore lackluster, overly-simple final bosses. This is that rant's antithesis. Video games are, generally speaking, supposed to be enjoyable and rewarding--they are not, unless I am horribly mistaken, intended to be excruciatingly frustrating or forge a sense of despondency. This is not the arcade, where I could understand how really difficult bosses equates to more quarters in the machine. When a final boss fight results in a flood of irritation and furor, isn't it missing the mark? I'm all for a fun challenge, but there is a line that some developers cross (I'm looking at you Sunsoft). Give me a break!
Most Underrated Video Games Rant: Quake II (PC): Great visuals, excellent audio (planes flying overhead—very nice touch), and an expansive world populated with grotesque strogg make for a memorable trek. This title receives the least appreciation within the Quake franchise despite its pure awesomeness. Also, an end-game Easter egg was a nice touch for id software aficionados.
Super Mario Bros 2 (NES): Ok, I get it—this was a departure from the tried-and-true Mario lineage. Get over it! Some people were angered by this--yet developers get blown up when they don't reinvent gameplay--they can't win! Bereft of some aspects of SMB that I wasn't a fan of (memorizing pipe patterns, same castle boss fights, etc) I thought it was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. Using any of the four main characters (each with different abilities), great-looking graphics, pleasant music, and unique bosses at the end of each level worked to create depth that had never before existed within a Mario game. It’s just got a style all it’s own.
SiN (PC): SiN suffered from bad timing—it’s really that simple. It was released alongside Valve’s venerable Half Life, and was tremendously overshadowed as a result. The main characters had definite personalities, the environments were extremely varied and expansive, the bosses were bad-ass, and the game was quite long (a positive when the game is really good, IMO). This is one of the first games I remember having fairly destructible environments. Plus, this title sort of came out of no where—a nice surprise.
Blue Lightning (Atari Lynx): This was my favorite title for the fledgling Atari Lynx handheld. It was challenging, but not TOO challenging. The controls were responsive, the graphics were nice, and it was just plain fun to complete each level. When I beat this game, I felt like the world was my oyster. Deus Ex (PC): I used to argue with a co-worker (when I worked at CompUSA in college) about the pronunciation of this game. It’s "DAY-US EX," but he insisted it was "DEUCE EX." It’s right on the box for crying out loud! Anyway, this is a long, multi-faceted game with three different endings. The plot was actually interesting (with a few twists), and the weapons and environments were diverse. Sure, there are plenty who appreciate this hybrid FPS/RPG title, but even more have never heard of it. Where is the sequel, Mr. Warren Spector?!
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (NES): Ok, let’s just get it out of the way—totally ridiculous title. Just like in Viva Pinata, try and learn to appreciate the silliness of the main characters. This is literally a trek across a kingdom of vegetables, some of which are friends, some of which are foes—all of which make you smile. I remember I had to call a Nintendo game counselor (remember them?) to beat the last boss. The battles are turn-based and entirely fun.
Unreal (PC): Sure, the Unreal franchise has received plenty of adulation over the years, but this is primarily due to Unreal Tournament—the multiplayer edition which stole a lot of thunder from Quake Arena several years ago. The orginal Unreal, however, is rarely mentioned as one of the best FPS titles of the 90’s. Yes, it was hyped in a BIG way--but was quickly forgotten. I remember being awed by how the game drew me in—the environments were just so believable. The enemies were finely designed, and the peaceful denizens of the Unreal world were a nice touch (you could enter their homes, etc). The graphics, for its time, were amazing.
Video Game Regrets Rant: 1.) I worked at CompUSA part-time during my last two years of college, and I really enjoyed my time there. Not only was it a great-paying college gig (for us salespeople selling the TAP program it was an unabashed gold mine), but my co-workers were fun to chat with throughout the evening, and we could purchase anything at cost. We’d talk video games, movies, and argue over whether or not the Sega Dreamcast would be successful, or if it was wasted money since the PS2 was a few months away. Anyway, one of my buddies there said I should check out System Shock 2. The next time I was perusing the gaming aisle I picked up the box and read the back. I wasn’t overly intrigued--it looked too RPG-ish and maybe a bit slow-paced. Years later when I realized System Shock 2 was a sci-fi horror FPS with just a few well done RPG elements, I really regretted never playing it, especially considering I wasted precious time playing a few trash games like Rune (PC), Requiem: Avenging Angel (PC), and Blue Stinger (Sega Dreamcast) all the while System Shock 2 was calling my name.
2.) Buying an Atari Jaguar. Do I really have to elaborate on why?